[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] F [/yt_dropcap]or decades, Russia and Sudan have maintained a strong economic and politically strategic partnership. And still, there visible and promising signs that both countries want to see the deepening of relations, especially in the economic sphere, in the years ahead. In this interview, H.E. Mr. Nadir Babiker, Ambassador of Republic of Sudan in the Russian Federation, discusses some of the significant aspects of the current relations with Moscow correspondent, Kester Kenn Klomegah, and the following are the interview excerpts.
What’s the current level of Russia’s economic presence in Sudan and that of Sudan in the Russian Federation? In the first place, what are your government’s key priorities and expectations from Russia?
– The Russian economic presence in the Sudan is strong in the field of mining. There are three companies, who received licenses for gold exploration, one of them started production in 2015, and the other two are still in the process of exploration. Other Russian companies are operating in the services sector, such as demercurization of the traditional mining sector, geological mapping, mineral labs, training and other mining services in Moscow. Also there are some Russian companies in the field of oil and gas services. There are agents for some Sudanese companies, who import from the Russian Federation.
During the four sessions of the JMC between Sudan and Russia between 2013 – 2016, we signed 32 Agreements and MoUs in the field of mining, electricity and Dams, food security, banking, assembly of agricultural machinery, invest promotion, industry, environmental protection. All these sectors represent priority to us.
Can you briefly tell us which economic sectors are attractive for foreign investors (e.g. U.S., EU, China, France) generally and what investment incentives are currently available for investors or foreign players?
– The fields of oil and gas, mining, infrastructure and agriculture, are most attractive sectors for foreign investors. There are companies from China, India, Canada, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Jordan, Malaysia and Indonesia. They invest in these sectors.
Even before Republic of Sudan separated from South Sudan, the volume of bilateral trade between Russia and Sudan has significantly been low over the years. How would you estimate bilateral trade between Russia and Sudan now?
The volume of bilateral trade between Sudan and the Russian Federation is below our expectations, for 2016 it was $ 186 million. It does not reflect the real potential of trade between the two countries. But there is an increasing trend on trade between the two countries during the last three years, the last year it increased by 150% compared to 2015. That was the second jump since 2013. This year we are expecting more increase, there is more demand for the Russian wheat, we are introducing for the first time the Sudanese vegetables and fruits to the Russian market.
What are the main problems and challenges in efforts for working towards its improvement? How can the trade imbalance, somehow, be reversed?
– As I said, the potential is huge, we need to exert more efforts in trade promotion, and in arranging business trips, as well as encouraging business people from both sides to participate in trade exhibitions in Moscow and Khartoum. We also managed to arrange visit for the concerned authorities from the Ministry of agriculture and animal resources of the Sudan to Moscow, to explain the arrangements and procedure of quality control of our exports and their compatibility with the international standards.
What, in your view for example, your government position negotiating for trade preference that are available for African countries and that allows export of some products to the market in Russia?
– Of course, yes, and thanks to the Russian government, Sudan exports will enjoy a preferential treatment.
Do you also consider promotion of small and medium scale businesses as part of strengthening economic cooperation between two countries? And, in your view, how can this be pursued effectively?
– Actually, we are focusing on the small and medium scale business, because it satisfies our requirements for the transfer of technology, and there is a mutual desire from both sides to cooperate in this field. We also visited four different regions in the Russian Federation, to extend cooperation with industries in these regions. Interview by Kester Kenn Klomegah in Moscow.
Lavrov, African Union Troika discuss trade and Second Russia-Africa Summit
On July 8, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a meeting with the foreign ministers of the African Union troika (South Africa, Egypt and the DRC). It was held to review and continue implementing some of the significant issues adopted in the declaration at the close of the first Russia-Africa Summit in 2019.
It was the first annual consultations with his African counterparts, the current, former, and future African Union chairpersons – Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the South African Republic Naledi Pandor, Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt Sameh Shoukri, and State Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Marie Tumba Nzeza. The consultative meeting was attended by Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Alexei Gruzdev, Deputy Head of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, Vyacheslav Smolensky and Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, Alexei Likhachev.
According the reports, the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum (RAPF) was established, a new mechanism for dialoguing aspects of multifaceted cooperation between the two parties. During the consultations, the participants discussed detailed ways of developing efficient cooperation between the RAPF Secretariat set up at the Foreign Ministry, with the foreign ministries of African countries and the secretariats of African regional integration organizations with a view to coordinating joint efforts on preparing for the second regular Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022.
The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum will, among others, coordinate daily contacts with the foreign ministries of various African countries and the mechanisms of the African Union and other integration associations in Africa. The Secretariat will oversee the organizational and practical preparations of new initiatives for the next Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022 in accordance with the Sochi agreements. As part of the joint declaration in Sochi, the Heads of State decided that it was expedient to hold these summit meetings once every three years.
The issues formulated by African partners and initiatives on the best ways to develop investment, trade and economic ties were also discussed at the Association of Trade and Economic Cooperation with African Countries. Established in June, by the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum has large Russian companies are members of this association. They are interested in developing cooperation with African states. In addition to Rosatom, it brings together other companies such as ALROSA, Gazprombank, Transmashholding, and the Innopraktika development institute.
The association serves as a platform for helping Russian companies that want to work in individual African countries or with the integration associations on the African continent. It will review measures to increase industrial cooperation between Russia and Africa, both bilaterally and with the involvement of African sub-regional organizations, as well as to ensure simplified African exports access to the Russian market. It will further lay the roadmap towards the development of common economic, research and cultural roadmaps to promote Russian-African cooperation.
First, the ministers agreed to hold a second political consultation meeting of the Russian foreign minister with the three foreign ministers of the African Union in 2021. Second, it was agreed at the end of the meeting that the second Russia-Africa Summit will be held inside Africa in 2022. The Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum will have to work out specific dates and venues for the next round of political consultations following the election of the African Union chair for 2022.
War is Not An Option, But the Rule of Law in Nigeria
In an early July interview with the President of the Congress of Igbo Leaders in the UK and Ireland, Mazi Obi Okoli, believes that Nigeria has lots of challenges implementing a system of governance that will guarantee the interests of all within the nation. According to him, many of the problems, frictions and issues faced today in Nigeria is a direct result of the defective federal system, the 1979 constitution drafted without consultation and the negative attitudes by majority of politicians toward development in Nigeria.
Why did you choose to write the book “The Lost Igbo Treasure” as part of your life?
Our journey of life must be to add value to human existence. I believe that people have to leave some positive footprints that will allow the coming generations to access truth, information and facts about their history, traditions and culture. I chose to write the book The Lost Igbo Treasure in order to document the facts of history, proverbs, language, culture, tradition and beliefs of the Igbo people of West Africa. It is my resolute belief that an informed generation are the best generation that can make positive impact to the world.
Over the years, there have been discussions about different ethnicity in Federal Republic of Nigeria. How different are the Igbos from Hausas, Yorubas and Fulanis in Nigeria?
It is a huge fact of life that the Igbo people have never been subject to one particular kingdom or caliphate like the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba tribes who are under the monarchical leaderships of Sokoto and Ife kingdoms respectively. This exposes the reader to the mindset, characteristics, beliefs and understanding of the Igbo people as an egalitarian people. The Igbos like every other human society believe in peace, co-existential continuum of the human race.
However, the Igbos are unique in their thinking, very hard working, strong, communal, resilient, entrepreneurial mindset, freedom seeking, family oriented and peace loving. The Igbos believe in the cosmological belief of the sanctity of human life, respect and fairness in their dealing with all human persons. They hold the sanctitutional belief of “live and let’s live”. They abhor injustice and deceit in human dealings. They believe that religion is and should be a means to an end and not the end of a means.
All the above distinguishes them from the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba who are influenced more by religious inclination and a combination of religion/societal belief for the later.
The Igbos are unique in what they do; how they live their lives, what they eat and wear, how to beat their path of existence on earth, the peculiarities and the songs they cherish, so also are the music, behavior and general attitude to life. It is clear that the Igbos uniquely differ from other ethnicities, in each of the above respects, in Nigeria.
Looking inside your book, what treasures have the Igbos lost in the country’s history?
The effects of colonialism, slavery, foreign religion, the genocide of 1967 have all severely impacted the Igbo society. The cherished Igbo treasures of togetherness, love and culture, tradition, language and ways of life. Our norms, values, belief, character and attitude, communal engagement, proverbs, idioms are treasures which the ancestors bequeathed to us from history have all began to elude our people and nation as a whole. Every society is alive by the presence of their unique values and traits. A loss of any of the above has great impact on the people and their society. Ndigbo must awaken themselves to the gathering storms and begin to see that our treasures are vanishing before our eyes.
How would you interpret and connect ethnicity with the federal system of governance?
This is a very difficult question. I will try not to be very academic so your readers will be carried along. The federal system of government is one that divides or shares the powers of governance between the national (federal), state and local governments. If this is true then it is imperative that this system of governance will guarantee, safeguard and protect the interests of all component parts that make up the federation.
However, over the centuries the experiment of this defective system as practiced in Nigeria has denied many ethnic nationals the opportunity to enjoy or harness the benefit of such a system if any. The travails and struggles of ethnic minority communities in Nigeria has also been that of the rest contending against both cultural extinction, politico-economic marginalization and political participation traumatization by the North with the former contending against economic expropriation, marginalization, exclusion, developmental strangulation and political “oblivionization” of the rest of the country, especially the Igbo people of the Eastern Nigeria.
These negative dimensions and conditions of ethnic minority alienation and discontent in the Nigerian federation has been indeed made worse under the present regime and further tightening of the noose continues unabated.
Therefore, the interpretation and connectivity of ethnicity with the federal system of governance is that of a resultant inherent contradictions and tensions in the evolution and operation of the Nigerian federal system. Many of the problems, frictions and issues faced today in Nigeria is a direct result of the defective federal system; the problematic 1979 constitution drafted without consultation and the negative under-developmental attitude of the Nigerian politicians.
All the above that I have mentioned, it has been made worse by the over-centralization of the governance system; the primitive refusal to recognize the complex ethnic configuration and interest; the pragmatic consensual underdevelopment of some regions, especially the Eastern part of the country; the relatively limited development of accommodative, consensual or power-sharing mechanisms; the absence or weakness of key mediatory or regulatory institutions; and the repeated distortion and abortion of democratic institutions. With the above administrative defects, it will be difficult for the nation to progress in contemporary times and be able to compete with other developing nations of the world.
Do you envisage any challenges and hurdles, for instance, if the Eastern States stand independently from the rest of the Nigeria?
The word “If” is relative. I would rather say “when” … When the Eastern States stand independently from the rest of the Nigeria there will be mountain of problems to face of which the greatest will be the problem of a mindset tabular rasa. For the new nation to triumph, we must clean up the mindset of our people from the retrogressive, corrupt, despotic attitude and character we would have migrated with from Nigeria.
We shall have the challenges of implementing a new functional system of governance that will guarantee the interest of all within the nation. We shall have the hurdles of implementing fast and modern economic policies, manufacturing strategies, progressive and meaningful educational system; effective purpose driven internal and external security measure that will safeguard, protect, defend our people wherever they live in the world.
We shall have the challenges of defining and implementing a robust manufacturing regime that will make us a competitive export oriented nation. The hurdles of corruption transfer, religious dependency on spirituality instead of hard work, the integration of our culture, tradition, norms and values lost in the euphoria of colonialization and sojourn in the plantations of Nigeria shall be hurdle that we must surpass to emerge a strong nation.
How sustainable is the economy, and resources available to support the needed development there?
The economy of the Eastern region is enormous and can definitely support and sustain the development of a new nation. There are abundant and available human, material, agricultural, industrial and technological resource which will be perfectly combined with the positive resilience of our people will catapult our nation in 20 years to a progressive global economic player.
Can it help bridge the development gap and what are future perspectives for the Igboland?
It will help bridge the developmental gaps and we hope to see a positive future prospect not just for the Igbo people, Eastern Nigeria but the world at large. A new nation of Eastern Nigeria will become the pride of all black people globally.
As the President of the Congress of Igbo Leaders in the UK and Ireland, how can you describe the popular sentiments of your fellow members there? Do they support the Eastern States to break away or rather advocate for national integration?
As you would expect in every organization you will have the pessimists, the rational and the progressives. In Congress of Igbo Leaders UK, we have divergent opinions. That is the beauty of such an organization blessed with the best minds, leaders and citizens of Igbo nation.
We endeavor to have healthy conversations, agree to disagree on pertinent issues. Overall, all our people want is to have a nation that all can be free. A nation where equity, fairness, justice, respect for the rule of law, absence of security operative brutality, respect for the fundamental human rights of her citizens, the right of life, education and movement without hindrances, harassments and intimidation. I must say that if Biafra offers us such an opportunity, there will be no Igbo person who will reject such an opportunity. One thing that is clear from the opinions of some of our members, war is not an option.
Ethiopian Naval Ambitions
Ethiopia is gradually and steadily opening up doors and minds to international relations. Testament to this was when French President Macron sealed a deal with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed when they met in March 2019. The French signalled plans to invest 2.8 Billion Euros in hopes of awakening a sleeping African giant that Ethopia is. The agreement also includes a military component which includes provisions air-force cooperation, joint exercises, equipment purchases and as well as, most ambitiously, goals to reconstruct an Ethiopian Navy. But, there is just one problem, Ethiopia is a landlocked nation.
History is witness to Ethiopian naval ambitions and is also witness to the Ethopia’s loss of coastal territories to Eritrea, which is in the north of Ethopia. In a bitter border conflict that resulted in independent Eritrea, also spelled the dissolution of the Ethiopian Navy. Ever since, there was little reason to reconsider a navy but all that started to change in 2018.Sincecoming to office Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been putting his country’s affairs in order. He has worked on a peace deal with Eritrea and has been able to integrate Ethopia more closely with Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan. There has been significant process to liberalize parts of the economy, and all this has been doing while maintaining inter-ethnic tensions.
Nonetheless, the country still has a long way to go for Ethopia to rise from the ashes as an African a heavyweight power in East Africa. Their flourishing economy now ranks as Africa’s fastest growing and the vast human population of 102million citizens has grabbed the attention of great powers in line with the emerging role of Ethiopia the Prime Minister who wants to remake his country asa regional hub for commerce and trade. However, in order to reassure investors that the waters around the Horn of Africa are secure, especially considering the incidents of piracy, Adis Ababa feels obliged to step up and protect its maritime trading routes in order to perpetuate feelings of security and trust amongst its investors. This also happens to be one of Ethopia’s long-term geopolitical objectives.
What one can infer from the arguments presented above is that a naval entourage will carve the way forward for Ethopia. Re-establishing a maritime force to its overall drive will allow the country to push itself as a major player connecting Europe and Asia.
If Ethiopia believe they can convince European and Asian business by re-establishing a navy that the Horn of Africa is open for business at first glance it, they are mistaken. That is because a landlocked nation should seek a navy but, surprisingly, landlocked navies exist in many parts of the world. This is particularly relevant in countries where a river or a lake forms a national border. Thus, with the exception of the Caspian nations, landlocked navies operate strictly in major lakes or rivers. What makes Ethiopia’s case unique isthe fact that the State is seeking a blue water fleet to operate along the coast of the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa is spread over 727,000 mi².
An Ethiopian Navy would mean a win-win for the regional nations while the current coastal countries enjoy access to the world’s oceans but they lack the capabilities to patrol their waters and facilitate trade. Ethopia, however, has the opposite problem. It possesses the most resources but lacks a shoreline. Moreover, the regional coastal nations do not necessarily see an Ethiopian Navy as a threat but as a complementary force testament to this is acquisition of land in the island of Lamu as part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) project, a $24bn (£18bn) transport and infrastructure plan to link the Kenya and Ethopia. In short, the motivation for Ethiopia’s naval ambitions is it enables her to gain leverage in the regional maritime affairs and improve trading relations.
All things considered, Ethiopians would also have to develop the capabilities of their neighbors to reinforce their coastal entries so Ethiopia’s landlocked Navy would patrol and protect the waters of the Horn of Africa while also investing capital in stabilizing the coastal states. This trade-off would contribute to integrate the region economically and politically while reducing cross-border violence in an area that has been plagued for decades by territorial conflicts.
This geo-political manoeuvring is a welcomed change but we all know, talk is cheap. Constructing a navy from scratch is an expensive undertaking. If, the state of Ethopia could acquire a few dozen patrol boats and call it a day that is in fact what is most likely to occur in the next few years. And the patrol-only boats could be the Navy serving a symbolic purpose.
Eventually Addis Ababa will want a blue water Navy with military capabilities and that is when the real toil starts for it will require the state to train sailors, officers and commanders but also find suitable bases and procure larger vessels. This is a long-term project that will take decades to complete in the meantime the build-up of the Navy will be subject to future political and economic developments. And considering the long term commitment, that is required to construct a navy Ethiopia needs international partners.
The most immediate host for an Ethiopian Navy would be the Republic of Djibouti, the small but strategically important Nation which is already host to military bases from numerous countries including France, China and the United States of America. Djibouti also happens to enjoy close economic ties with Ethiopia. In fact, Ethiopia’s imports and exports go through the port of Doral, which is an extension of Djibouti port. However, the presence of foreign military bases in Djibouti means Ethiopian policymakers and Djibouti may not always have say over its own affairs and that is a security risk so even though Djibouti is where we will most likely see the first Ethiopian vessels set sail.
Adis Ababa would like to avoid putting all its eggs in one basket because if some political development results in the breakdown of relations between Ethiopia and Djibouti the Ethiopian Navy would be placed in a vulnerable position. So eventually, as the Ethiopian blue water navy becomes operational it will require basing rights in other countries convincing Eritrea will be difficult due to the their troublesome history that is still in living memory but basing rights in places like Misawa willbe necessary for the long term.
Nevertheless, in Somalia meanwhile relations between Addis Ababa andMogadishu have improved significantly and the Somalian ports of Kismayo and Pesasso are well suited for large navies. However, the activity of Al-Shabaab and the lack of infrastructure in Somalia impede close cooperation in the near future.
Countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran holding vested interests in the Horn of Africa, and also China and the United States there are however potential allies in the periphery such as France and the United Arab Emirates. France is the most obvious partner as its signed a deal to help re-establish the Ethiopian Navy and by doing so Paris is seeking to expand its influence beyond the francophone sphere into East Africa French multinational firms and a whole host of other defence corporations seeking to capitalize on the growing and liberalizing Ethiopian economy.
Another potential partner is the United Arab Emirates, which currently has a naval presence in Eritrea as well as unrecognized Somaliland. What is interesting here is that France operates a naval base in the United Arab Emirates, and the to maintain a strategic level of military cooperation with them.Since they operate in many of the same areas and if Addis Ababa, plays its cards right it could forge a lasting partnership with France. And the United Arab Emirates which would go along way in developing a capable Navy it goes without saying that Ethiopia’s pursuit of regional power could become a mega power in the region. This in turn would declare Prime Minister Abbey as scrupulous, hyper successful leader. He has embarked on a roadmap for reconciliation and restoration, as of now. But there remain pockets of secessionists across the country and social unrest continues to flare up from time to time as recently as June 2019, when there was a failed coup attempt. The armed forces tried to takeover a regional centre in the country.
The whereabouts of the rogue General who orchestrated the coup remain unknown. Events like these revealed that the central government still does not have full control over the domestic political situation despite all the progress being made. Therefore, beyond the obvious geographic shortcomings for a blue water navy of Ethiopia must stabilize its internal landscape or else the government may face a situation where it would be left with no choice but to hit the brakes on its ambitious naval project.
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